The trek back home

LESLIE STOJSIC | After decades of intergalactic travel, Captain James T. Kirk finally came home -- to McGill.

Last Sunday, William Shatner -- arguably McGill's most famous graduate -- made a pilgrimage to McGill with the crew of Life and Times, the CBC program that profiles Canadian icons. During his visit, he toured the lower campus and visited Moyse Hall, where, as an undergraduate during the 1950s, he performed in various school plays -- no doubt a precursor to his legendary role as Captain Kirk on the original Star Trek series.

"All the buildings reek of nostalgia," Shatner told the Reporter. "The stone [of McGill's buildings] has a special place in my heart."

Shatner made a special point of stopping by McGill's student union building, the University Centre. That's the official name for the building in McGill's eyes, although a student referendum several years ago resulted in the building being rechristened in honour of Shatner.

The University didn't accept the referendum results. Traditionally, McGill reserves the honour of naming buildings for deceased members of the University community or, more commonly, for major benefactors.

In spite of the University's position, the centre is widely known as the Shatner Building -- the name is used in official Students' Society of McGill University documents, by the Montreal media and even by a McGill administrator or two.

To date, Shatner has not made a significant donation to McGill. But he hinted that might change.

Shatner was introduced to the building named after him by SSMU president Duncan Reid. Standing on the building's steps in the bitter cold, Reid showed Shatner the new plans for the building, which must be renovated to improve safety and accessibility. The building is not up to fire code regulations and has no elevators, rendering it impossible to navigate in a wheelchair.

Upon hearing of this situation, Shatner smiled and said simply, "The magic words are: how can I help?"

If Shatner is willing to help, it is only because he knows the importance of student life to the totality of the university experience. "Academic knowledge stays for a while, but the student life is what I will always cherish," he mused.

As a student, Shatner recalled, he excelled more on stage than in the classroom. "I have many fond memories of McGill, most of them being centred not so much around academic life, but from getting involved in all kinds of student activites," he said.

How does it feel to have students nickname their building after him? "I'm happy to be connected with this building," he said. "It means a great deal to me. It's the centre of student life... in many ways, the centre of the University."

The Life and Times episode profiling William Shatner is scheduled to air this fall.